Nematodes with pest-fighting potential identified

August 22, 2012

Formosan subterranean termites could be in for a real headache. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have identified species of roundworms, or "nematodes," that invade the termite brains and offer a potential bio-based approach to controlling them. Other nematodes that were identified invaded tarantula brains.

The Formosan termite, a from Asia, feeds on cellulose from the heartwood of trees, the wood support beams of buildings, and other sources. It causes an estimated $1 billion annually in U.S. damages, repairs and control costs.

Biologically based control of the pest isn't a new concept, but the examined thus far do not kill the termites efficiently, according to Lynn Carta, a plant pathologist with the Nematology Laboratory, operated in Beltsville, Md., by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Since 1999, Carta has determined the identities of seven species of isolated from the bodies of Formosan termites by Ashok Raina, a retired entomologist formerly with the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La. Other specimens Carta has identified were collected from dead or sick termites native to Uzbekistan. Further details appear in the International Journal of Nematology.

Of particular interest to Carta and colleagues are bacteria that have a symbiotic association with the nematodes. In one case, a Poikilolaimus nematode species and bacterial "accomplice" were isolated from the heads of Formosan termites, and it's likely the microbe had sickened the insects in the field. According to Carta, the bacterial association raises an interesting prospect: using nematodes as vectors of insect pathogens rather than as primary —the traditional approach.

In another case that's still under investigation, Carta implicated a Panagrellus nematode species in the death of pet tarantulas. She suspects an insect and yeast may also be involved and is intrigued by the possibility because it would reveal a new ecological association that could yield novel approaches to pest control.

Explore further: Termites frighten South Florida residents

More information: Read more about the research in the August 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/aug12/pests0812.htm

Related Stories

Roundworm Repository Contributes to Agricultural Wellbeing

January 5, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Beltsville, Md., manage a most unusual sort of insurance: 43,000 slides and vials containing all manner of wormlike organisms called nematodes, from the costliest ...

'Fire gel' protects beneficial nematodes from sun

February 3, 2011

"Fire gel" is being tested by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists as an effective way to help tiny worms protect peach and other stone fruit trees from devastating borer pests.

Tall fescue helps protect peach trees from nematodes

November 29, 2011

Planting tall fescue grass as a ground cover in peach orchards helps protect peach trees from nematodes that attack tree roots, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Recommended for you

Whiskers help animals sense the direction of the wind

August 24, 2016

Many animals appear to have an impressive ability to follow the wind to find food, avoid predators, and connect with potential mates. Until now, however, no study had examined how land mammals know the direction of the wind. ...

Scientists develop new techniques to track how cells develop

August 24, 2016

Understanding how various cell types differentiate themselves during development is one of the fundamental questions in developmental biology. Using genome-editing tools, Harvard scientists are getting closer to finding answers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.